Saturday, March 31, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 3/30: Omaha 5, Lincoln 2

Courtesy of CK Photography
The Lincoln Stars lost their sixth straight game to the Omaha Lancers last night, falling 5-2 in front of 4,344 fans at the IceBox.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss, the Stars dropped to 33-17-4 (70 points) and are still in second place in the USHL Western Conference.  Lincoln is now three points behind the first place Omaha Lancers (73 points), but the Stars still have two games in hand.  Click here to view the USHL standings.

Disappointing ending last night for a game that was so hyped coming in.  I don't know how much time I really want to spend dissecting each goal.  Still not in the greatest of moods after last night.  I'm sure this is how Omaha fans felt last season when the Stars couldn't lose to the Lancers.  As a fan, it's frustrating to watch the Stars continue to fall to the Lancers, so I'm sure the players are pissed off as well.



Getting back to the game, I thought Lincoln came out in the first period and took the play right to the Lancers.  Stars were the more physical team, and had better scoring opportunities 5-on-5.  Wherever the Lancers were, a Stars player was there right in his face.  I think Lincoln may have hit two posts in the first period, but no pucks were able to get past Omaha goaltender Alex Lyon.

Late in the first period, I thought a few bad calls definitely went against Lincoln.  I'm not the type of to blame losses on the officials.  It's cliche, but I've always believed that good teams overcome bad calls.  First, Markus McCrea picked up a phantom tripping minor in the Omaha defensive zone.  From my seat, I saw a Lancers player fall, but McCrea's stick was no where near him.  Maybe the ice was soft last night because it seemed like the Lancers had a much harder time than the Stars staying on their skates.  You interpret that how you wish.

So with McCrea in the penalty box, Stars defneseman Mike McKee laid out a huge hip check along the boards as an Omaha player with the puck was entering the Lincoln defensive zone.  Again, from my seat, it looked like a good, hard hip check to me.  McKee is 6'4", 230 pounds, so whenever he hits anyone at full steam they are going down fast and hard.  I think referee Ken Anderson overreacted a bit to the hit when he gave McKee a five-minute major and game ejection for elbowing.  I did not see an elbow, but the play did happen very fast.  Even if there was an elbow, I don't think it deserved a major and a game ejection.  If anything, Anderson could have whistled McKee for a minor, or even a double-minor for elbowing.  By the way, the Omaha player hit on the play got right up and did not miss a shift.

So with McCrea and McKee in the box, the Lancers scored a  5-on-3 PP goal late in the first period.  Whatever momentum the Stars had earlier on in the period vanished with the Omaha PP goal.

Lancers used that swing in momentum early on in the second period to score two goals (one on the PP) to take a 3-0 lead.  After the third Lancers goal, Stars goaltender Jackson Teichroeb was pulled in favor of Charles Williams.

Teemu Tiitinen scored on a goal-mouth scramble shortly after the third Omaha goal to give the Stars some life.  Stars pulled to within two goals at 3-1 going into the second intermission.

Just like in the second period, the Lancers outscored the Stars 2-1 in the third to pull away for the eventual 5-2 win.  The lone Stars goal came from Vinni Lettieri who sniped a puck glove-high past Lyon from just inside the blueline.  Lancers scored a meaningless empty-net goal late in the third for their fifth goal.  Lancers finished 2-for-6 on the powerplay, while the Stars went 0-for-5.

There's no doubt in my mind that the Stars are a better team 5-on-5 than the Lancers.  That has been the case in most of the games I've seen between the two teams this season.  Say what you want about the bad calls, or the diving, but the Stars have not been able to figure out Omaha's PP all season long.  The Lancers have scored 12 powerplay goals in six games against the Stars this season, while Lincoln has scored six PP goals.

"Puck luck" definitely wasn't on Lincoln's side last night either.  I counted at least four posts hit from Lincoln shots on goal.  Alex Lyon did give up a number of rebounds, but all seemed to go directly to the stick of an Omaha player.

One thing that kind of bothered me last night about the Stars was it seemed to me that the team was not as physical in the second and third periods compared to the first.  I thought Lincoln's best period was the first when they were skating around with their hair on fire, and hitting anything that moved.  Their forecheck was outstanding, and they did not allow Omaha much breathing room.  That seemed to disappear in the second and third periods, which allowed Omaha more room to skate and set up offensive chances.

If the Stars want to finish in first place in the west, tonight's game is a must win.  Tomorrow's game in Waterloo might be a must win also.  It will be interesting to see how the Stars respond this evening in Omaha. I'd expect to see Charles Williams start in net for Lincoln, and Alex Lyon once again for Omaha.  If Lincoln can win the special teams war, I have no doubt they can win the game tonight.

I'll be watching the game from home tonight on FastHockey, so I'll post my thoughts after the conclusion.  If you have any thoughts about the game last night, please leave a comment below.

Go Stars.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

B³ Weekend Preview: Omaha (x2) and Waterloo

Is this the most important weekend of games so far this season for the Lincoln Stars?  This fan says so.  The Stars will have a lot on the line when they face off against the Omaha Lancers (twice) and the Waterloo Blackhawks this weekend.  On Friday night at the IceBox, the Stars will host the Omaha Lancers.  On Saturday, the Stars will travel north on I-80 to face the Omaha Lancers at the Civic Auditorium.  On Sunday afternoon, the Stars will be at Young Arena in Waterloo, Iowa to take on the Blackhawks.  The puck will drop at 7:05pm for both games against the Lancers, and at 3:05pm Sunday in Waterloo.

If you are unable to make it any of the games this weekend, you can follow the boxscores online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on KLMS 1480 AM, or watch the games on FASTHockey for a fee.

The Stars currently sport a record of 33-16-4 (70 points) and are in second place in the USHL Western Conference.  Lincoln is only one point behind the first place Omaha Lancers (34-18-3, 71 points) with two games in hand..  Although the Lancers are in first place for now, the Stars (.660) have a better winning percentage than Omaha (.645).  Click here to see the current USHL standings.

The two games coming up will be the seventh and eighth time the Stars and Lancers will face one another in the 2011-12 regular season.  Unless they meet again in the playoffs, this could be the last time Omaha and Lincoln knock heads until next fall.  Unfortunately for the Stars, they haven't fared well against the Lancers this season.  Lincoln is 1-4-1 in six games against Omaha this season, and have been outscored 27-15 in those six contests.

The last time they met, the Lancers beat the Stars (in Omaha) by a score of 5-4 in overtime (shootout).  In that particular game, Stars forward Teemu Tiitinen was on the receiving end of a hit from behind by Lancers forward Ken Babkinski.  Teemu suffered facial fractures after Bibinski rode Tiitinen hard into the boards, face first.  Babinski was suspended six games by the USHL for his hit from behind.  Teemu is healed up and back in the lineup (wearing the fishbowl), and I'm sure the Stars haven't forgotten Babinski's number.

Since their last meeting on 2/10/12, the Stars have a 11-3-1 record while the Lancers have a 9-6-0 record.  Omaha has been in first place in the west for most of the season, but the Stars have been nipping at their heels, especially of late.  I'm not sure how much better it gets than Lincoln vs. Omaha for first place in the USHL Western Conference.  Although both teams still have a number of games left, the two tilts this weekend between the Stars and Lancers could very well determine who finishes first in the west.

On Sunday, the Stars will play a rare Sunday afternoon contest against the Waterloo Blackhawks (29-18-6, 64 points, third place in the USHL Western Conference).  This will be the fourth and final time these two teams face each other this season.  The Stars hold a 2-1-0 record in the three previous games against the Blackhawks.  Each contest has been decided by one goal and two of the three games were decided in overtime.

Originally, this game was to be played back on Saturday, February 4th in Waterloo.  However, a winter storm dumped about a foot of snow in eastern Nebraska that day, so the USHL cancelled the game due to unsafe travel conditions.  It was later rescheduled for Sunday, April 1st at 3:05pm.

The bad news this week for Lincoln was that the USHL suspended Stars forward Brent Tate for five games due to the "head contact" major and misconduct he picked up against the Sioux City Musketeers last Saturday night at the IceBox.  Tate will be able to come back and play the last two regular season games (both against Fargo) before the playoffs begin.  Losing Tate, especially against Omaha, is huge.  I know a lot of our fans probably won't agree with me, but I think the suspension was warranted.  Tate has to find a way to play smarter, but keep that edge.  The team needs their captain on the ice, not in street clothes watching from the stands.

Well, I'm running out of time (and babbling) so I'm going to wrap this up.  Like I mentioned above, the game tomorrow night at the IceBox is a sellout, so the atmosphere should be rowdy and loud.  From the sounds of it, a ton of Stars fans will be making the trek to Omaha on Saturday night to invade the Civic Auditorium.

Let's do this, Lincoln!  Six points up for grabs.  Start strong, finish stronger!

Go Stars.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Snapshots of the Game: Sioux City vs. Lincoln 3/24

Thanks to Jeff White and Brandon Anderson for letting me post some of their photos from the Sioux City game last night at the IceBox.  Check out Jeff's "Depicted Image" Facebook page and Brandon's "BA Photos" Facebook page.

Click the "Read more" link underneath the photo below to see all of the pictures in this series.

Great shot of the pregame light show at the IceBox.  Home sweet home!

Snapshots of the Game: Dubuque vs. Lincoln 3/23

Sorry for the delay getting these pictures up on the blog.  I haven't been around the computer much this weekend.  Thanks to blog reader "Starstruck" and Brandon Anderson for allowing me to share some of their photos from the Dubuque game this past Friday night.  Click here to check out BA's Facebook page.

Click the "Read more" link underneath the photo below to see all of the pictures in this series.

Stars in the spotlight after Dominik Shine's first period goal

B³ Postgame Recap 3/24: Sioux City 6, Lincoln 3

Courtesy of Depicted Image Photography 
On the strength of two first period shorthanded goals, the Sioux City Musketeers invaded the IceBox Saturday night and snapped the Lincoln Stars' six-game winning streak with a 6-3 victory.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss, the Stars dropped to 33-16-4 (70 points).  Lincoln is still in sole possession of second place in the USHL Western Conference, one point behind the first place Omaha Lancers (71 points).  Click here to view the current USHL standings.


Recently, the Stars have had some issues getting outplayed and outscored in the first period, and that inability to play smart hockey really hurt Lincoln last night.  Stars spent most of the period in the penalty box thanks to some undisciplined play, which in turn really limited the offensive chances they had.  And when the Stars did get on the powerplay, they were stifled by a very good Muskies penalty-kill unit which also scored two shorthanded goals in the first period.

Lincoln only managed two shots in the first period, and surrendered three goals.  It's never a good stat to give up more goals than shots on goal.  SC had a 2-0 lead less than five minutes into the game, and a 3-0 lead going into the first intermission.

USHL referee Kevin Curtis is a guy who is universally hated by a lot of Stars fans, and I may be in the minority with the following statement, but I didn't think he was that bad last night.  There were some calls missed (on both sides) for sure.  But for the most part, I thought most of the penalties called against the Stars last night were deserved.  In my opinion, Curtis is still the most inconsistent ref in the league, but the Stars can't blame this lose on him.

There have been some games this season that when the Stars get behind, they tend to lose control of their emotions which in turn puts them into the penalty box.  It is what it is, I guess.  Unfortunately, the Stars were not able to dig themselves out of the first period hole.

Lincoln outscored the Muskies 2-1 in the second period, thanks to goals from Jared Hanson, and a shorthanded effort from Mike McKee.  Lincoln outshot Sioux City 9-8 in the second period.  Muskies took a 4-2 lead into the second intermission.

Kevin Roy scored his 47th goal of the season early in the third period, which cut the Sioux City lead to 4-3.  Suddenly, the Stars were right back in the game and the crowd was also.  Roy's 47th goal tied the Stars' all-time record for goals in a season set by Brandon Bochenski back in 2000-01.  Kevin has seven remaining regular season games to break the record, which I'm sure he'll do.  Roy is on pace to finish the season with 53 goals scored, and 102 points.

So with the score 4-3 Sioux City early in the third period, the Stars were looking like they might rally to get back into the game.  However, the Muskies answered with a goal of their own less than three minutes after Roy's goal to increase their lead to 5-3.  That particular goal really seemed to take the wind out of the Stars' sail.  The Muskies would score a meaningless empty-net goal late in the third period to seal the victory.

Stars outshot Sioux City overall, 25-22.  Goaltender Charles Williams stopped 2 of 5 shots before he was pulled in the first period.  Coming into this game, Williams had won five in a row.  I'm sure this is a game Charles would want back.  Jackson Teichroeb relieved Williams in net and stopped 14 of 16 shots.  Sioux City goaltender Matt Skoff stopped 22 of 25 shots to record the win.

Stars finished 1-for-7 on the powerplay, and gave up the two shorthanded goals.  Sioux City went 1-for-6 on the powerplay.  Muskies definitely won the special teams war last night.  Lincoln's powerplay was unorganized, and giving up two shorthanded goals in one period put the team in a hole they couldn't crawl out of.

Brent Tate picked up a major and misconduct penalty for "contact to the head" last night, which more than likely will result in a one or two game suspension.  Not good considering the two games coming up next weekend against Omaha.

The Stars finished with a record of 5-3-0 in eight regular season game against Sioux City Musketeers this season.  We'll have to see what happens in the post season, but there is a good chance these two teams might face one another in the playoffs.

Considering what was on the line, I really thought Lincoln would have played a lot smarter last night.  Give credit to Sioux City for wanting it more.  If the Stars would have won, they would have leapfrogged Omaha into first place in the West.  Lincoln really needs to figure out a way to avoid the first period blues.  In their last four games, the Stars have been outscored 7-1 in the first period.  Luckily, the Stars finished 3-1 in those four games but the slow starts have to be fixed if this team wants to make any noise in the playoffs.

Next weekend the Stars play three games, two against the Omaha Lancers.  On Friday the Stars will host the Lancers at the IceBox in Lincoln.  On Saturday, the Stars will face the Lancers at the Civic Auditorium in Omaha.  On Sunday, the Stars will play a late afternoon game in Waterloo against the Blackhawks.  Omaha is in first place with 71 points, Lincoln is in second place with 70 points.  Clash of the Titans.  Should be a knock-down, drag-out fight.  Depending on the outcome, these games could determine who wins the western conference regular season title.

Go Stars.

Friday, March 23, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 3/23: Dubuque 1, Lincoln 3

The Lincoln Stars won their sixth straight (season high) tonight with a very impressive 3-2 victory over the Dubuque Fighting Saints.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.



Scoring goals for Lincoln tonight was Dominik Shine, Luke Johnson, and Kevin Roy.  Shine finished with three points (1g, 2a), Johnson with two points (1g, 1a), and Roy also with two points (1g, 1a).

Stars goaltender Charles Williams stood on his head against the Saints and stopped 23 of 24 shots to record his 16th win of the season.  Williams has won five straight starts for Lincoln, and has a record of 16-3-3 on the season.


I'm going to try to update this article tomorrow sometime with a full recap.  Outstanding effort tonight by the black and blue against a VERY good Dubuque team.  It definitely felt like a playoff game tonight at the IceBox.

The first place Omaha Lancers lost 5-1 to the Tri-City Storm tonight, so the Stars are now only one point behind the Lancers in the western conference standings.  Omaha does not play the rest of this weekend, so that means if the Stars can beat the SC Musketeers tomorrow evening at the IceBox, Lincoln will leapfrog the Lancers in the standings and be all alone in first place.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

Huge game tomorrow night at the IceBox, so if you don't have your tickets....buy them tomorrow as soon as the ticket office opens!

Go Stars.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

B³ Weekend Preview: Dubuque and Sioux City

The IceBox will host the final Friday-Saturday homestand of the 2011-12 regular season this weekend when the Lincoln Stars take on an unfamiliar, and familiar foe from the state of Iowa.  On Friday night, the Stars will take on the Dubuque Fighting Saints.  On Saturday, Lincoln will face the Sioux City Musketeers.  The puck will drop at 7:05pm CST for both games.

If you can't make to the games this weekend in Lincoln, you can follow the boxscores online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on KLMS 1480 AM, or watch the games on FASTHockey for a fee.

Lincoln enters this home weekend with a record of 32-15-4 (68 points) and are in second place in the USHL Western Conference.  The Stars are only three points behind the first place Omaha Lancers with three games in hand.  Click here to see the current USHL standings.

First up for the black and blue this weekend will be the Dubuque Fighting Saints (30-18-4, 64 points, fourth place in the USHL Eastern Conference).  This will be the second, and final time the Stars and Saints play one another.  The only other way these two teams would face each other this season would be if they met in the Clark Cup finals.  In their lone previous matchup, the Stars lost 5-4 in Dubuque to the Fighting Saints back on 12/16/11.  In that particular game, the Saints outscored the Stars 4-2 in the first period and held on despite a third period comeback attempt by Lincoln.

Since re-entering the USHL in 2010-11, the Fighting Saints have played the Stars three times and all have been wins for Dubuque.  However, each Dubuque win has been by one goal so these teams have played each other tough.  The Saints have one of the most talked about NHL-draft eligible players in forward Zemgus Girgensons.  The native of Riga, Latvia (same hometown and country of Stars d-man Ralfs Freibergs) is considered by many scouts to be one of the top USHL players eligible for the upcoming NHL draft.  Girgensons has size, speed, and skill.  He should be a first round NHL draft pick.

The Saints are 2-5-1 in their last eight games, and are 13-13-1 on the road this season.  Dubuque has the 6th best powerplay unit, and #1 ranked penalty kill unit in the USHL.

Saturday evening at the IceBox, the Stars will battle the Sioux City Musketeers (23-28-1, 47 points, fifth place in the USHL Western Conference).  This will be the eighth, and final time the Stars and Muskies play one another in the regular season.  The Stars hold a 5-2-0 record against Sioux City in their seven previous meetings.  Lincoln has won the last three games against the Muskies, outscoring them 14-6.

The Stars and Muskies faced each other last Friday night and it was Lincoln that came away with a 5-2 win in Sioux City.  That particular game saw a number of penalties from both sides, which could carry over into the game Saturday night at the IceBox.  Sioux City had a 2-0 lead last Friday but watched it fade away as the Stars took control of the game and scored five unanswered goals to seal the victory.  After the game, Muskies head coach Brett Larson was very critical of the officiating.

The Musketeers do not play Friday night so they will be rested (and hopefully rusty) for the game against the Stars on Saturday at the IceBox.

I'm running out of time to get this article up, so I'm going to wrap it up.  The Lancers only play one game this weekend, so the two home games at the IceBox could be a great opportunity for the Stars to gain a little ground on Omaha.  Dubuque especially will be a tough opponent for the Stars as the Saints are one of the top teams in the East.  The Muskies are fighting for one of the last playoff spots in the west so they have a lot riding on their lone game this weekend.

Four points up for grabs.  Let's do this, Lincoln!  Start strong, finish stronger!

Go Stars.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Snapshots of the Game: Des Moines vs. Lincoln 3/17

Thanks to Jeff White and Brandon Anderson for letting me post some of their photos from the Des Moines game last night at the IceBox.  Check out Jeff's "Depicted Image" Facebook page and Brandon's "BA Photos" Facebook page.

Click the "Read more" link underneath the photo below to see all of the pictures in this series.

Pregame huddle

"Jersey Off Our Backs" Auction Results and Pictures

After the Bucs vs. Stars game at the IceBox on Saturday night, the Lincoln Stars had their annual "Jersey Off Our Backs" auction to benefit the American Cancer Society. 

 I'm going to include the totals for each jersey below.  A grand total of $47,150 was raised!  The St. Patrick's Day themed jerseys were designed by Stars trainer Corey Courtney.  Stars fans should be very proud of their dedication and willingness to contribute to such a great cause.

Here are the jersey totals, in order of the bidding:

Bob Kinne:  $1250
Markus McCrea:  $1250
Brandon Carlson:  $1450
Logan Smith:  $1500
Brad Hawkinson:  $1400
Tommy Schutt:  $1700
Matt Friese:  $1200
Vinni Lettieri:  $2300
Zach Frye:  $1300
Zach Aston-Reese:  $1250
Will Suter:  $1900
Jackson Teichroeb:  $1500
Charles Williams:  $2600
Ralfs Freibergs:  $1800
Luke Johnson:  $1700
Paul LaDue:  $1450
Jared Hanson:  $1800
Mike McKee:  $1500
Kevin Roy:  $3100
Dominik Shine:  $2050
Teemu Tiitinen:  $1900
Dax Lauwers:  $1550
Brent Tate:  $4600
Colton Saucerman:  $2200
Framed team autographed jersey:  $2900


Click the "Read More" link below to see more pictures from the auction, courtesy of Brandon Anderson Photos.

B³ Postgame Recap 3/17: Des Moines 2, Lincoln 5

Kevin Roy - Courtesy of Depicted Image Photography
For the second straight night, the Lincoln Stars battled back from a 2-0 deficit, this time to beat the Des Moines Buccaneers at the IceBox by a score of 5-2.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the win, the Stars improved to 32-15-4 (68 points) and are in second place in the USHL Western Conference standings.  The first place Omaha Lancers, who have 69 points, did not play tonight.  So the Stars are only one point out of first place, and have one game in hand over Omaha.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

I just got home after watching the jersey auction, so I'm going to post a few things really quick and then update this article with a full recap sometime on Sunday.

As I mentioned above, the Stars found themselves once again in a two-goal hole after the first period.  Despite outplaying Des Moines during the first twenty minutes, the Bucs were able to score two and take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

In the second and third periods, the Stars responded by scoring five unanswered goals to win the game.  Scoring goals tonight for Lincoln was Kevin Roy, Jared Hanson, Dominik Shine, Markus McCrea, and Matt Friese.  Stars goaltender Charles Williams stopped 20 of 22 shots to record his fourth straight win.

With his three points (1g, 2a) on the night, Kevin Roy now has a total of 86 points on the season, which broke the all-time Stars record for most points in a season (83 points) which was set by Chris Fournier back in 2000-01.

After the game, the Stars had their annual "Jersey Off Our Backs" auction to benefit the American Cancer Society.  A grand total of $47,150 was raised tonight!  The St. Patrick's Day themed jerseys were designed by Stars trainer Corey Courtney.

Go Stars.

Friday, March 16, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 3/16: Lincoln 4, Sioux City 2

The Lincoln Stars roared back from a 0-2 deficit tonight in Sioux City to beat the Musketeers by a score of 4-2 and win their fifth straight on the road.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.



With the win, the Stars improved to 31-15-4 (66 points) and are in second place in the USHL Western Conference.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

I can't take credit for the win tonight, but I turned the radio broadcast off at the first intermission after the Stars were down by two goals.  The quality of the online feed was horrible, the Stars were losing, and I thought that maybe if I did something else the team would rebound.  I'm superstitious (or just stupid) like that.  Anyway, thanks to a friend who kept me updated via email, I learned that the Stars stormed back, scored four unanswered goals, and won the game.  Mission accomplished. :)

Because I only listened to the first period on the radio, this recap will be brief.  If you were lucky enough to be in attendance tonight, or if you watched the game on FastHockey, please leave a comment and let us know how the team looked.

As I mentioned above, the Stars found themselves down 2-0 after the first period of play, despite out-shooting the Muskies 10-8 through the first 20 minutes.  One of the goals the Stars gave up in the first period was a shorthanded tally.

Whatever the coaches and/or team captains said during the first intermission must have sunk through as the Stars took back control of the game.  The second period goal-scoring barrage began with Bob Kinne's goal at the 7:11 mark to pull the Stars to within one goal.  Will Suter and Brandon Carlson earned the assists on Kinne's sixth goal of the season.

A little over a minute after the goal by Kinne, Stars forward Kevin Roy scored his league-leading 43rd goal of the season at the 8:12 mark to knot the game up at 2-2.  Matt Friese and Jared Hanson collected the assists.

The eventual game-winning goal came at the 12:04 mark of the second period when Logan Smith scored his third goal of the season to give Lincoln its first lead of the game at 3-2.  Kevin Roy and Jared Hanson picked up the assists.

Lincoln took the 3-2 lead into the locker room at the second intermission.  Stars outshot the Muskies 14-9 in the second period.

The only goal scored in the third period came from the youngster from Minnesota, Vinni Lettieri, who scored his second USHL goal at the 8:28 mark.  Assists went to Zach Aston-Reese and Brad Hawkinson.  In six games with the Stars this season, Lettieri has scored 6 points (2g, 4a) and is +5.

Stars outshot the Muskies 10-9 in the third period, and 34-26 overall.  Stars went 0-for-3 on the powerplay, while the Musketeers went 0-6.  Nice to see the Stars' PK unit step up big tonight to blank the Muskie's PP.

Lincoln goaltender Charles Williams stopped 24 of 26 shots to notch his 14th win of the season.  CW3 has won three of his last four starts in net.  Really nice to see him bounce back after the first period tonight.  Charles shut the door on the Muskies in the second and third periods, which allowed his teammates to get back into the game.

With his two points (1g, 1a) tonight, Kevin Roy has now accumulated 83 points (44g, 39a) on the season which ties the all-time Lincoln Stars single-season record of 83 points set by Chris Fournier back in 2000-01.  Roy has 10 more games to break the single-season points record, and the single-season goals record of 47, set by Brandon Bochenski also in 2000-01.  Roy could very easily break the 83 points in a season record tomorrow night at the IceBox in front of a sellout crow.

If you're interested in the Sioux City point of view of this game, I'm going to include a few links.  Click here to read the recap from the official Musketeers website.  The author of that article, Jordan Berger, was nice enough to mention that the Stars are 12-1-2 in their last 15 games played.  However, he's incorrect.  Lincoln is 11-2-2 in their last 15 games.  Still, a very impressive record.

Click here if you want to lose a few minutes of your life that you'll never get back by reading what the local SC paper had to say.  Very interesting quotes from Muskies head coach Brett Larson.  Sounds a lot like sour grapes to me, but when your team gives up four unanswered goals at home to lose the game, I guess you have to point the finger somewhere other than at yourself.

Great start to the weekend!  Pack the IceBox tomorrow and be LOUD!

Go Stars.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

B³ Weekend Preview: Sioux City and Des Moines


After taking on two Michigan teams last weekend, the Lincoln Stars will battle two teams from the state of Iowa this St. Patrick's Day weekend.  Friday evening in Sioux City, IA the Stars will play the Musketeers.  On Saturday, Lincoln will return to the IceBox to face off against the Des Moines Buccaneers.  The puck will drop at 7:00pm CST for the game on Friday night.  Puck drops at 7:05pm CST Saturday night in Lincoln.

If you can't make to the games this weekend in Sioux City and/or Lincoln, you can follow the boxscores online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on KLMS 1480 AM, or watch the games on FASTHockey for a fee.

Lincoln enters this weekend with a record of 30-15-4 (64 points), and are in sole possession of second place in the USHL Western Conference.  The Stars are only three points behind the first place Omaha Lancers (67 points), and Lincoln has two games in hand.  Click here to see the current USHL standings.

First up for the Stars this weekend will be the Sioux City Musketeers who have a record of 22-27-1 (46 points, fifth place in the USHL Eastern Conference).  Lincoln will be looking to extend their current four-game road winning streak against the Muskies in SC.  This will be the seventh time the Stars and Musketeers play one another this season.  Lincoln has a 4-2-0 record against Sioux City in their six previous contests.

The Stars are 2-1 against the Muskies at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City this season, although the last meeting there didn't turn out so well for Lincoln.  Back on 12/31/11, the Muskies rang in the new year with a 5-0 shutout of the Stars.  Coming into the game against the Stars on Friday, the Muskies are riding a two game winning streak with impressive road wins against Waterloo, and Dubuque.  However, the Musketeers have lost three in a row at home.

The Muskies are so up and down, it's hard to know what team will show up from game to game.  They are the very definition of a "Jekyll and Hyde" team.  They'll go 4-5 games in a row where they look great, and beat some of the top teams in the USHL.  Then suddenly they'll lose multiple games in a row and play terrible hockey.  On a Friday night they'll win big, but will crap the bed the next night.  They are a frustrating team to be a fan of, and I know a few of those fans.

On Saturday, the Stars will celebrate St. Patrick's Day against the Des Moines Buccaneers (20-25-4, fifth place in the USHL Western Conference) at the IceBox.  This will be the fifth time the Stars and Bucs have knocked heads this season with Lincoln holding a 4-0 record in their previous four contests.  The Stars have outscored the Bucs 12-2 in their previous two meetings at the IceBox, both blowout wins for Lincoln.

The Bucs are battling it out with two other teams (Sioux City, Tri-City) for that last playoff spot in the USHL Western Conference.  Des Moines is barely treading water, however, having lost three in a row coming into this weekend.  The Bucs do not play this Friday night, so they will be well rested for the Stars on Saturday night at the IceBox.

There might be some Bucs players missing from the lineup this weekend due to an unfortunate incident last weekend at Buccaneer Arena in Des Moines.  Click here and here to read more about that.  The USHL and local law enforcement in Des Moines are still investigating, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Unless you've been living in a hole, you should be well aware by now that the Stars will be holding their annual "Jerseys Off Our Backs" auction after the game Saturday night at the IceBox.  Click here and here to read more about that.  Specially designed jerseys (designed by Stars trainer Corey Courtney) will be auctioned off after the game, and all proceeds to go to the American Cancer Society.  Last year, a total of $34,000 was raised.  Click here to see the results (and pictures) from last season's auction.

Even if you don't want to, or can't afford to bid on a jersey, this is a very fun event to attend.  It's interesting to watch fans go back and forth with their bids, and what the players will do to increase their bidding amount.  Last year, the highest winning bid for a jersey went to Teemu Tiitinen for $3,000.  I assume his jersey will be another top one on Saturday along with Kevin Roy, Brent Tate, Dominik Shine, and others.  This is a great event for a great cause, so show up with your checkbook or plastic and bid away.

Four points up for grabs this weekend!  Start strong, finish stronger!

Go Stars.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

B³ Prospect Watch: Part Two

Last December, I posted an article in which I highlighted a group of younger players the Stars have previously drafted and are protected on their affiliate list.  This is the second update leading up to the Stars' next tryout camp in June of 2012.  

Before that camp in June, the Stars will take part in the USHL Futures Draft which is going to be held on May 1st, 2012.  Also that month, the Stars will draft even more players in the USHL Entry Draft which will be held on May 22nd, 2012.

Although some of these names might not be familiar to most fans, some of the players listed here will most likely be playing for Lincoln sometime in the next season or two.  So get familiar with them, because you will see them soon at the IceBox.  In fact, some of the players below have already worn a Stars uniform, or currently wear a Stars uniform..

If you have additional information about any of the players listed below that you would like me to add to the article, or if I have posted inaccurate info, please send me an email at lincolnstarshockey@gmail.com.  

This is kind of a long article, so make sure you click the "Read more" link below to check it out.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Congrats to Jared Hanson!

I learned about this news last night, but waited to post the article until it was announced officially by the Lincoln Stars.

Congrats to Stars forward Jared Hanson who recently committed to play hockey for the Colorado College Tigers.  Click here to read the announcement from the official Lincoln Stars website.  Click here to read the announcement from the USHL.com website.

 Click here  and here to read a couple of newspaper articles from Hanson's home state of Alaska.

Through 44 games this season for the Stars, Jared has accumulated 43 points (22g, 21a), is +27, with 53 penalty minutes, and four game-winning goals.  Last season, Hanson scored 24 points (9g, 15a) in 53 games for Lincoln.

Without a doubt, Hanson would get my vote as the most improved player on the Stars this season, as the numbers posted above prove out.  What I really enjoy most about watching Hanson play is the size of his heart.  He's not the biggest player on the ice, but he "plays big."  He's fearless with or without the puck.  He's not afraid of getting his nose dirty in the corners, and drives hard to the net on each shift.

Jared also as the knack of scoring clutch, timely goals.  He plays his best in big games.  I'm not sure what else you could ask from a player than that.

Congrats once again to Jared on his commitment to CC!  Very well deserved.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 3/10: Lincoln 5, Muskegon 2

The Lincoln Stars finished out their quick Michigan road trip with a solid 5-2 victory tonight over the Muskegon Lumberjacks.  The win was Lincoln's fourth in a row on the road.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.




With the win, the Stars improved to 30-15-4 (64 points) and are in second place in the USHL Western Conference.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.

Also, the two points earned by the Stars tonight allowed them clinch a spot in the 2012 Clark Cup playoffs.  Technically, the Stars clinched a playoff spot last night, but apparently the USHL wasn't aware of that.

I was able to watch this game on FastHockey, so my thoughts are below.

The Stars came out very strong against the 'Jacks tonight in the first period and pretty much dominated the first twenty minutes.  Their hard work was rewarded at the 8:33 mark when Zach Aston-Reese broke in alone on 'Jacks goaltender John Keeney and roofed a puck over Keeney's glove to give Lincoln a 1-0 lead.  Defenseman Paul LaDue collected the lone assist on ZAR's fifth goal of the season.

Very late in the first period, the Stars were rewarded again when Brent Tate wristed the puck past Keeney from the slot to give Lincoln a 2-0 lead.  Tate accepted a very nice pass from Dominik Shine to score his 11th goal of the season.  Luke Johnson also picked up an assist on the second Lincoln goal.  Stars took that 2-0 lead into the first intermission.  Stars outshot the 'Jacks 14-7 in the first period.

In the second period, the 'Jacks seemed to finally wake up and played the Stars much closer than in the first.  Muskegon got on the scoreboard at the 8:31 mark to cut the Stars lead to 2-1, but the Stars answered a few minutes later at the 11:55 mark.  Kevin Roy would score his 42nd goal of the season on a rebound with assists going to Jared Hanson and Matt Friese.  Lincoln regained its two-goal lead at 3-1, but Muskegon would answer before the period concluded.

With Stars defenseman Mike McKee sitting in the penalty box, Muskegon scored a powerplay goal at the 18:02 mark to pull within one goal once again.  Stars took at 3-2 lead into the second intermission.  Lincoln outshot Muskegon 16-15 in the second period.

In the third, the Stars turned on the jets and outscored the 'Jacks 2-0 to pull away with the win.  That all-important insurance goal was scored by Luke Johnson at the 2:26 mark on the powerplay to give Lincoln a 4-2 lead.  Johnson appeared to redirect a point shot by Brent Tate past Keeney on the play.  Tate and Paul LaDue earned the assists on Johnson's 17th goal of the season.  Luke has now scored a goal in five straight games.

Who better than Kevin Roy to add the icing on the cake with his second goal of the game, coming on an empty-netter to seal the 5-2 victory.  Roy's USHL leading 43rd goal of the season was assisted by Vinni Lettieri and Paul LaDue.  Muskegon outshot Lincoln 10-9 in the third period, but the Stars outshot the 'Jacks overall, 39-32.

Both teams went 1-for-5 on the powerplay.

Stars goaltender Jackson Teichroeb was the surprise start, but he was solid in net tonight.  Jackson stopped 30 of 32 shots to record his 17th win of the season.  Teichroeb has won three of his last four starts for the Stars.  Muskegon goaltender John Keeney stopped 34 of 38 shots in the losing effort.

Solid sixty-minute effort tonight against a team still fighting for a playoff spot.  I thought it was interesting that head coach Chad Johnson told radio announcer Mike Melbye at the first intermission that the 'Jacks were purposely running Kevin Roy, and taking liberties with him on the ice.  After Roy scored his first goal of the game in the second period, a Muskegon player hit Roy up high while he was celebrating and Jared Hanson quickly roughed the 'Jacks player up.  I guess when you can't beat a team on the scoreboard, you try to cheap shot them and take them out of the game.  Roy was also on the receiving end of a knee-on-knee hit in the third period which was penalized as well.  Stay classy, 'Jacks.

Stars are back in action next weekend with a road game Friday night in Sioux City against the Musketeers, and a home game Saturday night against Des Moines.

Go Stars.

Friday, March 9, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 3/9: Lincoln 4, Team USA U-17 0

The Lincoln Stars used a strong second period effort to score all four goals and shutout Team USA U-17 by a score of 4-0 tonight in Ann Arbor, MI.  Click here to view the Poinstreak boxscore.  The win was Lincoln's third in a row on the road.



With the win, the Stars improved to 29-15-4 (62 points) and are still in sole possession of second place in the USHL Western Conference.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.


I didn't get a chance to watch this game on FastHockey, and I only listened to bits and pieces of the radio broadcast.  This recap will be brief, but if you watched the game tonight, please leave a comment below.

As I mentioned above, all four goals scored by the Stars tonight came in the second period.

In the first period, Team USA U-17 outshot Lincoln 11-9 and only one minor penalty was called.

Lincoln exploded in the second with four unanswered goals on USA goaltender Collin Olson (who normally plays for the U-18 squad).  Instead of rehashing each goal by reading from the Pointstreak boxscore....here's the scoring:

Period 2
Lincoln - Luke Johnson (Dominik ShineRalfs Freibergs) 2:50
Lincoln - Luke Johnson (unassisted) 13:36
Lincoln - Kevin Roy (Will SuterRalfs Freibergs) 15:50
Lincoln - Jared Hanson (Kevin RoyRalfs Freibergs) 19:09

As you can see, Luke Johnson, Ralfs Freibergs, and Kevin Roy all had a very good second period.  Johnson finished with two goals (including the game winner), was +2, and had four shots on goal.  Freibergs finished with three assists and was +3.  Kevin Roy scored two points (1g, 1a) and was +2.  Roy's goal was his league-leading 41st of the season.  Ralfs Freibergs now leads all USHL defenseman in scoring with 35 points (8g, 27a) in 48 games played.

Lincoln outshot Team USA 18-11 in the second period.  In the scoreless third period, Team USA outshot the Stars 12-3.  Team USA outshot Lincoln overall, 34-30.  Both teams went 0-for-2 on the powerplay.

Stars goaltender Charles Williams stopped all 34 shots he faced to record his 13th win, and fourth shutout of the season.  Williams now has four shutouts this season which is tied for most overall.  CW3 has won three of his last four starts in goal, and is playing some of his best hockey of the season right now.  Hopefully he gets the start tomorrow night in Muskegon against the Lumberjacks.

Speaking of the 'Jacks, they lost at home tonight to the lowly Chicago Steel by a score of 3-1.  It was not a good night for Muskegon as they only managed to put 15 shots on goal against the Steel.  You'd figure the Lumberjacks will come back tomorrow night against the Stars and play much better.

Great way to start this Michigan road trip!  I didn't get a chance to listen to Stars head coach Chad Johnson after the game, but the only thing I would be concerned about from this contest was that Lincoln surrendered 34 shots on goal, which is a rarity for this team.  More often than not they outshoot the opposition, and very few teams get 30+ shots against Lincoln.

Go Stars.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

B³ Weekend Preview: Team USA U-17, Muskegon

The Lincoln Stars will look to improve upon their two-game road winning streak this weekend with two contests against eastern conference foes in the state of Michigan.  On Friday evening, the Stars will be in Ann Arbor, MI to face the U.S. National Team Development Program (U-17).  Faceoff for that matchup will be at 6:00pm CST.  On Saturday, the Stars will travel east from Ann Arbor to take on the Muskegon Lumberjacks.  Faceoff for the Muskegon game will be at 6:15pm CST.

To follow the team this weekend you can check out the boxscores online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on KLMS 1480 AM, or watch the games on FASTHockey for a fee.

Lincoln enters this weekend with a record of 28-15-4 (60 points) and are currently in second place in the USHL Western Conference.  Click here to see the up to date USHL standings.

First up for the good guys this weekend will be the U-17 Team USA squad (20-20-4, 44 points, sixth place in the USHL Eastern Conference).  For those not familiar with Team USA, they are divided into two different squads:  U-18 and U-17.  The U-18 team consists of some of the best homegrown hockey players under the age of 18.  The U-17 team consists of players under the age of 17 (all players on this team were born in 1995).  This will be the first, and only time Lincoln and Team USA face each other this season.

By my calculations looking at the Team USA U-17 schedule, the youngsters have a 11-14-2 record against USHL teams so far this season.  Despite their very young age, this is a salty bunch of seasoned players.  They've already beaten some of the better USHL teams this season, so this won't be an easy game for the visiting Stars.

One name on the Team USA U-17 roster that may sound familiar to Lincoln hockey fans is forward Michael McCarron.  Michael's older brother John played three seasons in Lincoln and is now a freshman on the Cornell University ice hockey team.  When the elder McCarron brother played here, he was often referred to as "Big John."  Well, "little" brother Mike has his older brother beat.  Michael McCarron stands 6'5", weighs 220 pounds, and just turned 17 years old yesterday.  Mike is a big, talented kid with a bright future.

On Saturday, the Stars will complete their Michigan road trip with a tilt against the Muskegon Lumberjacks (15-24-7, seventh place in the USHL Eastern Conference).  Like the Team USA game, this will be the first and only time Lincoln and Muskegon will meet this season.  Last season, the Stars went 2-0 against the then expansion Lumberjacks.  

This game could be a very interesting one to watch.  You have the top two teams in terms of penalty minutes accrued in the USHL.  The Lumberjacks hold the top spot with a total of 1,204 penalty minutes accumulated in 46 games (average of 26.2 PIM's per game).  The Stars are second overall with 1,074 in 47 games (average of 22.9 PIM's per game).  Both teams thrive on intimidating their opponent, although the end result hasn't been nearly as successful for the Lumberjacks this season compared to the Stars.

The 'Jacks have surrendered 179 goals this season, which is the most of any USHL team.  Defensively, they have a lot of holes.  At the beginning of this season, the Lumberjacks made a trade for a goaltender some fans in Lincoln may remember.  John Keeney, formerly of the Omaha Lancers, was acquired to help shore up their goaltending.  Althought Keeney hasn't played that bad this season, he's only one player.  The problems on the 'Jacks go much further than Keeney, the only goaltender I know in the USHL with his own website.  Although the team in front of him can be a defensive nightmare, Keeney has the talent to stand on his head and steal games on his own.

Although both of the teams the Stars will face this weekend are barely treading water near the bottom of the eastern conference standings, Team USA U-17 and Muskegon are more than capable of winning games in their own rinks against teams with better records than they have.  There are no easy games in the USHL.

A number of Lincoln players will be making a homecoming of sorts this weekend with the road trip to Michigan.  Brent Tate (Canton), Dominik Shine, (Pinckney), and Charles Williams (Canton) are Michigan natives and should have a lot of family and friends in attendance at both games.

Don't forget that both games are being played in the eastern time zone, so they will be starting about an hour earlier than what we are used to.

Good luck to the team this weekend!  Bring home four points!

Go Stars.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Video highlights of the Stars' 5-2 win over the Des Moines Bucs

Thanks to Scott and his "Des Moines Bucs highlights" youtube page for the video below.  Scott, who is a fan of the Bucs, does a fantastic job of recording highlights from every Bucs home game, and editing them into a video.  I wish we had someone in Lincoln who could do something similar.  If you're on Twitter, make sure you follow Scott here.  Click play below to watch the video.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

B³ Postgame Recap 3/3: Lincoln 5, Des Moines 2

A big third period by the Lincoln Stars tonight propelled them to an impressive 5-2 road win over the Des Moines Buccaneers.  The Stars outscored the Bucs 4-1 in the third period to snap Des Moines' five-game home winning streak.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.



With the win and the two points, the Stars improved to 28-15-5 (60 points) and are still in sole possession of second place in the USHL Western Conference.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.


I didn't watch the game on FastHockey tonight, but I did listen to the radio broadcast.  I hope to post some video highlights from the game sometime later, courtesy of the Des Moines Bucs Highlights twitter page.  When those highlights get posted on youtube, I will post them here.

Stars got out to a quick 1-0 lead in this game thanks to an even-strength goal from Luke Johnson just 2:50 into the game.  Brent Tate collected the lone assist on Johnson's 14th goal of the season.  Johnson has now scored a goal in three straight games.  Johnson's goal would give the Stars a 1-0 lead going into the first intermission.  Bucs outshot the Stars 15-13 in the first period.

The Bucs would get on the scoreboard late in the second period to knot the game up at 1-1.  Chad McDonald of Des Moines scored a goal just as a Stars penalty was ending at the 17:59 mark of the second.  The Bucs outshot the Stars 14-10 in the second period.

As I mentioned above, the Stars exploded in the third period with four goals to take control of the game and seal the victory.  Brent Tate started the scoring with a PP goal just 37 seconds into the period with an assist going to Ralfs Freibergs.

At the 7:51 mark, Stars affiliate player Vinnie Lettieri scored his first USHL goal to give the Stars a 3-1 lead. Lettieri, who will finish the season and playoffs with the Stars, scored what would turn out to be the game-winning goal.  Vinni's goal was unassisted.

Matt Friese scored his 8th goal of the season at the midpoint mark of the third period to increase Lincoln's lead to 4-1.  Markus McCrea earned the only assist on Friese's goal.

The Bucs would score at the 15:32 mark to pull Des Moines to within two goals at 4-2.  However, the Stars would finish out the third period scoring with Kevin Roy's empty net goal coming with only 26 seconds left in the game.  The goal was Roy's 40th of the season, and was assisted by Mike McKee and Vinni Lettieri.

The #1 star of the game tonight was Lincoln goaltender Charles Williams who stood on his head and stopped 42 of 44 shots to record his 12th win of the season.  Great effort by CW3 tonight.  Lets hope the coaches stay with Williams next weekend when the Stars go back on the road with games against Team USA and Muskegon.

Lincoln finished the game 1-for-2 on the powerplay, while the Bucs went 0-for-8 with the man advantage.  Great to see the much aligned Stars penalty kill unit come up huge tonight.  In order to win the special teams war, your goaltender must be your best penalty-killer.  That certainly was the case tonight with Charles.

Just when the Stars offense couldn't get any more lethal, they added the youngster Vinnie Lettieri to the lineup.  I've highlighted Vinni before on this blog, but for those who are unfamiliar with him, here's the skinny.  Vinni was a 2011 USHL Futures Draft pick of the Stars and played this season in Minnesota with his Minnetonka high school team.  After his team was eliminated in the state playoffs this past week, Lettieri joined the Stars and will finish out this season in Lincoln.  Born in '95, Lettieri is now the youngest player on the Stars roster.  Despite his young age, this is a player many scouts are drooling over.  Vinni has committed to play collegiate hockey at the University of Minnesota.  He'll wear #7 for Lincoln for the remainder of this season.

Stars forward Dominik Shine was injured in this game, and did not return to ice afterwards.  Listening to head coach Chad Johnson after the game, it sounds like Shine will undergo testing for a possible concussion on Monday.  Hopefully Shine isn't injured too badly and can return to the lineup next weekend when the Stars will be back in his home state of Michigan.

Nice to see the boys rebound from the disappointing home loss last night to Cedar Rapids with a full 60 minute effort on the road in a hostile barn.  Let's hope they can keep the road winning streak of two games rolling next weekend in Michigan.

Go Stars.

Snapshots of the Game: Cedar Rapids vs. Lincoln 3/2

Thanks to Jeff White and Brandon Anderson for letting me post some of their photos from the Cedar Rapids game last night.  Check out Jeff's "Depicted Image" Facebook page and Brandon's "BA Photos" Facebook page.

Click the "Read more" link underneath the photo below to see all of the pictures in this series.

Lincoln's bench

B³ Postgame Recap 3/2: Cedar Rapids 5, Lincoln 2

The Stars saw their six-game home winning streak come to an end last night at the IceBox as the visiting Cedar Rapids Roughriders beat Lincoln by a score of 5-2.  Click here to view the Pointstreak boxscore.

With the loss the Stars dropped to 27-15-4 (58 points) and are still in second place in the USHL Western Conference.  The first place Omaha Lancers, who beat Tri-City last night by a score of 6-1, are now three points ahead of the Stars.  Click here to view the current USHL standings.


Lincoln came out very strong in the first 12 minutes of the first period and dominated play, but Roughriders goaltender Jake Hildebrand was up to the task.  Hildebrand, the former Sioux City goaltender, came up huge with some big saves in the opening minutes when the Stars were swarming the net.

Just when it looked like the Stars might get that important first goal of the game, the Riders scored at the 12:47 mark of the period to take a 1-0 lead.  Whatever momentum the Stars had quickly disappeared after that first Cedar Rapids goal, and the buzzing crowd went silent.

Lincoln outshot CR 12-8 in the first period, but found themselves down 1-0 at the first intermission.  I thought Lincoln outplayed the Riders for the first 12 minutes of the game, but the Riders came back and played well to end the period.

The Stars got on the scoreboard at the 6:39 mark of the second period when Markus McCrea sniped the puck past Hildebrand to knot the game up at 1-1.  Jared Hanson and Matt Friese collected the assists on McCrea's 7th goal of the season.  Lincoln put more pressure on the Riders and Hildebrand in the second period, but could only score the one goal.  Stars outshot Cedar Rapids 16-9 in the second period.

In the third period, it was pretty much all Cedar Rapids as they outscored the Stars 4-1 in the final twenty minutes of regulation.  In particular, it was the "Davey Middleton and Jake Hildebrand Show" for the Roughriders as those two teamed up to put the game out of reach for the Stars.  Middleton provided the offense with four points in the third period (hat trick, and one assist), while Hildebrand stood tall in net and stopped 10 of 11 shots that came his way.

The only shot to get past Hildebrand was a goal from Luke Johnson at the 9:00 mark of the third period to tie the game at 2-2.  Dominik Shine and Kevin Roy earned the assists on Johnson's 13th goal of the season.  I think a lot of Stars fans in attendance, including myself, thought after Johnson's game-tying goal the Stars would put it into an extra gear and find a way to win the game.  That just didn't happen.

Stars goaltender Jackson Teichroeb stopped 20 of 24 shots in the loss, while Riders netminder Jake Hildebrand stopped 37 of 39 to record the win.  Stars went 0-for-1 on the powerplay.  Cedar Rapids did not have any powerplay opportunities.

Give credit to the Roughriders for having the better goaltending last night, and taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them to score goals.  I thought the Stars may have outplayed Cedar Rapids for parts of the game, but a lot of the Lincoln shots on goal seemed to catch Hildebrand right in his chest.  Some of the saves he made were spectacular, but a lot were ho-hum shots that he gobbled up after they hit the logo on his chest.

I guess if you would have told me before the game that the Stars would not commit one penalty and still lose, I would have told you that you're nuts.  I don't think I've ever watched a game at the IceBox in which the Stars didn't have one penalty whistled against them.  Referee Brandon Schmitt let both teams play, which was great, but I think the back-and-forth pace definitely favored the quicker CR team.  The Riders were whistled for one minor penalty, and that was it.  

Lincoln will be back in action tonight in Des Moines to face the red-hot Buccaneers.  It will be interesting to see how the Stars respond after the loss last night.  If Lincoln wants to finish at the top of the western conference standings, they can't afford to lose two in a row while the Lancers continue to win games.  Lincoln's goaltending must improve also, as it has been less than consistent for the past few months.

Go Stars.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

B³ Weekend Preview: Cedar Rapids and Des Moines

Your Lincoln Stars will return to the IceBox for one game this weekend when they faceoff against the eastern conference Cedar Rapids Roughriders on Friday night.  The black and blue will then will go on the road to Des Moines to play the Buccaneers on Saturday night.  The puck will drop at 7:05pm CST for both games.

If you can't make to the games this weekend in Lincoln and/or Des Moines, you can follow the boxscores online via Pointstreak, listen to Stars radio announcer Mike Melbye on KLMS 1480 AM, or watch the games on FASTHockey for a fee.

Lincoln enters this weekend with a record of 27-14-4 (58 points), and are in sole possession of second place in the USHL Western Conference.  The Stars are only one point behind the first place Omaha Lancers (59 points), and Lincoln has one game in hand.  Click here to see the current USHL standings.

First up for the Stars this weekend will be the Cedar Rapids Roughriders (aka Green Weenies, Cedar Rapids Olympic Diving Team) who have a record of 19-18-8 (46 points, fifth place in the USHL Eastern Conference).  This will be the second, and final time the Riders and Stars play one another this season.  In their only other meeting way back on 10/28/11, the Roughriders beat the Stars by a score of 4-3.

Although they are a hair above .500, the Roughriders are definitely having a down year compared to most seasons under head coach Mark Carlson.  CR has been hit hard by injuries, and they are a young team with not a lot of prior USHL experience.  They also have had issues winning games away from home.  The Roughriders are 1-7-0 in their last eight road games, and have been outscored 15-2 in their last three road games.  CR has a dismal overall road record of 6-14-3 which would seem to favor the Stars who own one of the best home records of 16-6-1.

I tend to rib the Roughriders a lot on this blog for playing a sometimes soft, European style of hockey.  They aren't afraid to dive to draw a penalty, and they play a style completely different than most Lincoln hockey fans are used to watching at the IceBox.  Despite all of that, the Cedar Rapids are a team the Stars have had a lot of issues with in the past.  The Riders are traditionally a small, fast, shifty team and at times the Stars have had problems keeping up with their team speed.

On Saturday, the Stars will look to increase their road winning streak to two games (baby steps) when they travel east on I-80 to battle the Des Moines Buccaneers (19-22-4, fifth place in the USHL Western Conference).  This will be the fourth time the Stars and Bucs have knocked heads this season with Lincoln holding a 3-0 record in their previous three meetings.  The Stars have outscored the Bucs 12-2 in their last two meetings, both blowout wins at the IceBox.

On paper, it appears that the Stars should have their way with the Bucs again this Saturday, but that might not be the case.  Since losing 7-0 to the Stars at the IceBox back on 2/3/12, the Bucs have rebounded and have a respectable 6-3-1 record in their last ten games.  One of the biggest reasons the Bucs are playing better as of late is goaltender Pheonix Copley.

Copley, who attended the Lincoln Stars' 2012 tryout camp in Minneapolis back in June, was recently traded from the Tri-City Storm to the Buccaneers.  Since arriving in the stunningly beautiful metropolis of Des Moines, Copley has a record of 6-2-0, a goals against average of 2.23, and a save percentage of .929.  Considering how Bucs goaltender Jason Kasdorf as looked against the Stars this season (not good), I would not be surprised to see Copley in net against Lincoln on Saturday night.  Against the Stars this season, Kasdorf is 0-2 with a 7.00 goals against average and a .803 save percentage (see, I told you it wasn't good).

Although both of the teams the Stars will face are hovering, or barely above .500, neither game is a guaranteed win.  The Riders are always a tough game for the Stars, and the Bucs are playing some of their best hockey of the season right now.  If the Stars want to leapfrog the Omaha Lancers (who play three games this weekend) in the standings and into first place, they'll have to play 60 minutes against both teams to earn the four points.

Reminder:  The Nebraska girls state high school basketball playoffs are in town this weekend, and it appears there will be a games held all weekend long at the Devaney Center.  In particular, Omaha-Central plays Papillion-La Vista at Devaney at 7:00pm on Friday night.  Be prepared for more traffic, incompetent out of town drivers, and UNL parking nazis.  Oh, joy.

Go Stars.